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CaliforniaPlacesTravelUSA

Surfing California’s Coastal Pacific

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Hola, Bienvenidos a X Here X There y a Californie! My American patriots, excuse me, I have Spanish and French on the mind 🙂 I am learning these so I do not sound like an idiot when I go to Spain and France. I will probably still sound like an idiot, but less so than if I knew nothing 🙂

If I could sum up California in one photo, it would be this one. I know this leaves my others to risk of secondary placement if I want to tell a story of place, but’s that’s fine. This is it. The quintessential California shot of the surfer on the path to the beach, the path cracked and dry like so much of the landscape in the summer. This was early in the evening on the PCH, and on the way to San Francisco. It was magical as the sun had peeked out through the cloud cover that was there for most of the day to shine on that very path, and that very surfer. Beautiful, no?

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Foggy Days on the PCH

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There is something very romantic about fog, perhaps it’s the mystery, the unknown. Too much of it though can wear easily. The entire time driving up the PCH from LA to SF, it was covered in fog.

This photo is from the “Big Sur” section of the PCH and specifically in the Julia Pfiffer State Park. Boy, was it beautiful!! We had slept in the car the night before because there was no cheap place to stay on the way. It was actually really awesome, we stopped at this small resort hotel that was wayy too expensive for us, but they had this little trinket market shop next to it where we purchased some water, beer, and ramen. They had a microwave where they let us cook everything. Once we had our very healthy dinner, we pick-nicked in the car in the hotel parking lot, raised a bottle to a fabulous road-trip so far, and curled up in our sleeping bags. Early the next morning found us driving through this place, where we stopped and checked out one of the most famous views on the PCH. It was stunning and it was just us.

 

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Observing the Observatory

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Observing the Observatory. This is the edge of one of the corners of the Griffith Observatory in L.A. You can see the entire skyline from here, it is quite a staggering view. I had actually posted the view from there here. The Observatory itself is a cool subject. It holds an amazing telescope that you can walk up and see, for free!

I love this angle of the Observatory because it seems like the world drops off at the edge when in reality it’s only 50ft down to the hill. Just another example of how photography doesn’t show us all the reality, just a hint of it, just a moment, just a crop of life. 🙂

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Cat Napping Overnight in Yosemite

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Yosemite – a place of giants 🙂 I had to get myself back to Vegas from San Francisco all in less than 24 hours and it was about a 11 drive with no stops. Crazy right?! The things you resort to after about 8 hours to entertain yourself, I’m glad I was alone. The scenery helped. I chose to take the route through Yosemite and down the desert of Nevada. It was brilliantly beautiful and f***ing hot! The max was 115 degrees and I’m very glad the car held through. Because NO ONE was out there.

I started driving back from SF later in the afternoon and didn’t make it into Yosemite until after dark. I saw nothing because it’s Yosemite and completely dark, there was no moonlight either, it was a new moon. So I was getting tired and had already pulled over at a small motel to take a nap. It was about 2/3 in the morning. I was driving up and up and up and then saw a pulloff, which I took full advantage of and settled in to sleep. Not the most comfortable night, but when the light in the morning woke me up, I was astounded. I had unknowingly parked next to one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen, with the most beautiful sunrise coming along. I was surrounded by mountains, tall pines, and a view of the downhill that was spectacular. It was such a precious moment.

So I started driving again and just couldn’t close my mouth, I think “wow” came out at a rate of 100 times per minute. I couldn’t stop too long or I would miss my flight waiting for me in Vegas, but I made a few and snapped this photo. It was so peaceful. I only ran into one couple who had stopped in the same spot as me. This was also 5/6 in the morning and the tourists hadn’t started packing in yet.

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In with the New in Ecuador

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In Baños de Agua Santa in Ecuador, there’s a school in the middle of town and everyone gets out in the early afternoon for lunch and a break, like what we would call a “siesta”. What a beautiful thing. We need to work on this, and I’m talkin to you, USA. Sigh…

Not in Baños, but in another place, I did a lot of driving and saw a lot of times during the day where school was let out, whether for the lunch/afternoon break or later. I saw really young kids, walking along the side of the road (where there are no sidewalks), by themselves, holding hands, staying together, but no adults. I was impressed. They were very independent. These kids looked to be five years or six years old. I also saw older kids walking younger kids, no adults. I never saw any fighting between them. On that same note, I never saw a child in Ecuador being disrespectful to her or his parents or throwing a hissy fit, and I saw A LOT of kids. This was also impressive. I was there for two weeks and traveled all the way from North to South of the country. Compared to New England, everywhere I go, everywhere I see kids, there’s ALWAYS someone not being nice, back talking their parents, crying because they didn’t get a toy, fighting etc. I saw NONE of this anywhere in Ecuador, to the point that I noticed it, and it felt so weird, but in the best way possible. Even in the malls where I got some provisions. Nada!

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Baños de Agua Santa – Owning a Mountain

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If I had $500,000, I could own a mountain right now in Ecuador. When Rigoberto offered me his mountain, I almost said yes, and we’ll work out the details later. It was the most beautiful mountain. High above the town of Baños de Agua Santa, yet only a 10 minute drive up. Surrounded by clouds, waterfalls, farms, cows, green, mist, and other mountains of course. I think he wanted to retire. You see, he owned one of the best hosterías/hotels/hostals/B&Bs I’ve ever stayed in.

I would go back and live there if I could afford it. But it’s a lot of work. Him and his wife, Mercedes, run the hotel together and they know a thing or two about service and hoteling. They offered me an amazing herbal tea upon arrival when I was so tired from driving. They upgraded me to their best suite because I was the only one staying there, and I had only booked the treehouse. It was the honeymoon suite and you should see the bathtub! I’ve never experienced this in all the places I’ve paid more to stay in the United States. In the US, you pay double to stay in a shitty motel and deal with whatever grumpy desk clerk is there. And you most certainly do not get freshly made, organic, delicious hot tea. Capitalism…

I am going to have to write a long-form post on this place, just this place. Then one more on Baños. I left a piece of my heart in this mountain and I’m grateful that I was able to go there, and that Rigoberto and Mercedes tolerated my americantourist-nonspanishspeaking-self. Even if their business depends on travelers like me or other traveling Ecuadorians, some of us Americans can be downright ignorant and intolerable.

Anyways, this is about photography right? – this photo was standing at the front door looking out at the side of the mountain. The clouds at the top of the frame are hiding the rest of the mountain, no it doesn’t even stop there, we’re talking a volcano, think higher… Those plastic coverings are farms and they run up the mountain. Yeah, you thought farming was rough in the US, try vertical farming, on a mountain, in high altitudes. These people are really tough.

Ecuador

Cotopaxi – a rare sighting!

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Everyone, say hello to Cotopaxi, an active volcano in Ecuador located just south of Quito. Cotopaxi enjoys spending its days surrounded by clouds, being climbed by hikers and bikers alike, and posing for photos. It is the second highest summit in Ecuador and stands at an elevation of approx. 20,000ft. Hi Cotopaxi!

Charming, really. This is one volcano that likes to keep a shroud of mystery about it. The day I arrived was the first day in weeks (the inn-owner said) it had been clear to see Cotopaxi. The days following were also dreary and gray and the massive peak was not visible. Suffice it to say, I was really really lucky to grab this shot. I only stayed for the one night. Then it was off to somewhere else. However, the glimpse of this volcano was something magical. Ecuador, with it’s elevation changes and volcanos and well basically everything is beautiful, is a completely different landscape and is SO big, it’s engulfing. You can’t help but feel so small and as if you could just be swallowed by the scale of things there.

I stayed at the Rondador Cotopaxi hostel/inn/hotel. It’s right off the main highway and on the road leading into to one of the entrances to Cotopaxi. I was the only one there! The owners, Jenny and her husband were so nice, and the food they made was incredible. I quickly became obsessed with a soup called locro de papas, a popular potato soup in Ecuador. All the food in Ecuador was incredible actually. Everything was fresh and homemade and in most cases, made by the owners. You could most definitely taste the difference. Also, everyone has fireplaces, and most importantly, they use them! They are not gas, real wood fireplaces, real wood fires. I could live there if I didn’t feel like an invader in the country.

Puerto Rico

Thanks for the Jeep!

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A Jeep is a beautiful thing. Oh the places we’ll go! On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I rented an economy car, but the company was all out. The only thing they had left was a Jeep. The employee working at the counter asked me if that was okay and I gave him a big smile and said hell yes!! I was accompanied by someone born and raised in PR, so this was even better news.

Which is how we came to this place in the photo. Off road, sunrise, beach, no people, perfect sand, perfect weather, I had arrived at everything and nothing all at once. Well, except for the destruction that lay over the hill of sand and palm trees I am looking at in the photo from Maria. There will be many more photos from this place, but this was the first after landing and never having been to the Caribbean before (as a 27 year old), I was speechless.

Chicago

Street Photography in Chicago

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Street photography is typically an individual endeavor. One person, one camera, and the streets. That’s it. But what happens when you get a bunch of people together who are all crazy about street photography in the same place and go on a walk?

Well, in this man’s case, we got a lot of laughs. Our group stopped at this giant window which created amazing reflections of the Chicago downtown area. He was watching all of us from inside this pizza restaurant and started smiling, in which case, someone, of course!, took his photo, then another, then another, then another. They were all waving and smiling at him and he just couldn’t help but give off this amazing sheepish grin. I was in the back watching this. He was a good sport. It was like paparazzi! After everyone had moved on, I just waved, smiled, gave him a thumbs up question mark, he shrugged, laughing and of course, I then snapped one for the road.

The movement of a group of photographers who get together in the city for a photo walk is quite like that of a flock of small sparrows that are flying through the air together. They look like a dark cloud and move with smooth inertia. Usually one person veers right or left, and then the group follows, then the other way, then straight, then down alleys and crossing streets. It’s quite enough to keep up and not lose the group and also be concentrating on photos as well! And this is why street photography is best alone, but just plain fun together.

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Observing Los Angeles

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Los Angeles, a city with a vibe that won’t be found elsewhere. And a smog that could be found elsewhere. I loved L.A. There is a lot to like and a lot not to like. A place that I liked was the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. Although it’s far from Downtown, you can still see the skyline and it’s in a beautiful park. The hills of L.A. are so California – to a girl from the East Coast, they are unique. I understand why they call them hills. It’s so nice to have that varied elevation rather than everything being flat and a million miles away you start to get some real change in height. It’s probably something banal to locals or people from Cali, but the landscape is so beautiful to me. Even though I couldn’t see the sun because of the smog/fog, I always felt like I was being hugged by the sun – although at a nice comfortable earthly temperature. No wonder people like living here.

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Santa Monica Pier

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Santa Monica Pier. I had just driven from the Grand Canyon to here and I had never been west before! I made it to 25 years old without having been past Mississippi. So I finally got myself here. And I totally dig it. I LOVE the west. It’s so different from the East, but in a really good way. Everything felt more laid back. This could have been because I was on vacation though. Regardless, it felt like people were going on a difference pace. Not racing to get everywhere.

Santa Monica Pier is definitely touristy – definitely kitchy – if that is even a word. Rides, greasy food, caricature artists. It’s interesting. I also lost track of how many people I saw lining up to take their picture next to the Route 66 END sign pole. I was one of them, with pride!! I don’t care if I “look” like a tourist. That’s what I was/am. 🙂

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Santa Monica Beach

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Santa Monica beach – I was surprised to see that it wasn’t packed. It wasn’t too busy. This photo seems empty to me, even though there are a lot of people in it. You should see Hampton Beach during the summer on a weekend – now THAT is packed. Here, it was delightfully….less. Of course, maybe the cloudy/foggy feeling had something to do with it. Now the boardwalk was a different story – but that’s for another day! This photo was actually taken from the Boardwalk looking down at the beach.

Santa Monica Pier is the end of Route 66. I had this funny feeling – like I had “made it”. Whatever that means. What did I make? The journey? This was my first glance at the pacific ocean, my first time in California. I drove straight to Santa Monica Pier from the Grand Canyon. Then after, checked into the lodgings and explored L.A. But this was the first stop. It was both different and a little of the same as the East Coast. Different vibes, different coast line, different beach-goers. But the same sand, same touristy pier/boardwalk with rides and vendors, fast food, greasy food, etc. Definitely more surfers though. And the water was definitely warmer than New England’s chilly Gulf of Maine. Brrr!

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Waking on the edge of the Grand Canyon

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This is a pretty amazing memory, one I could never forget about, even if I tried. Camping on the edge of the grand canyon and waking up for the sunrise. A spectacular sunrise!

There was a fire the night before, and because not enough warm things were brought, there was a second fire…around midnight. Everything was incredibly dry, so unlike my native New England, where all seems to be perpetually wet, things started crackling in a hot second. pun intended. The trees nearby were wet down as there was fear of lighting the whole grand canyon on fire – that would not be cool. That didn’t happen, but you can never be too safe…with fire…and trees.

So, due to lack of sleep as it was so frigid and excitement to see the show of the morning, I walked over to the edge at the cusp of dawn and waited to greet the most beautiful galactic being of which humans are aware (to date!). There was something so magical about that feeling, sitting on what seemed like the edge of the world, watching the colors come alive around the canyon little by little until it was like a full blown bonfire. As the sun peeked over the horizon, the rock that line the canyon walls started to glow. The jagged ridges of the canyon casted shadows over the lower bits but themselves shone in pure glorious sunshine. The sky was a perfect mix or all different shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, magenta. It was ethereal. And no one else was there…

No photographers, no hikers.

No line of tripods. Just us. I had a friend who came with me and brought his ukulele and played a few things as we watched the sun rise. Talk about a moment. He handed the mini guitar to me and I plucked a few strings before giving it back and proceeding to take a few pictures.

I wasn’t sure if I was on earth at that point or in some sort of dream dimension. That place, at that time, we were part of the landscape, part of the spectacle. We were the sun, the rocks, the winds. I experienced everything as it was in the moment. I heard this quote recently…

Some people go to church and think about fishing…others go fishing and think of God

Well, this moment, I was thinking about that, the universe, all those things. I felt more connected to a spirituality in that moment than I ever did at church. I think I could adapt that quote into something about photography or camping/hiking. After all, fishing is quite like photography in a way. They can both be meditative and peaceful, a way to relax and be in nature. Photos don’t bother fish though…but fishing doesn’t involve electronics…I think the answer here is – shoot film! Anyways, here are some pretty pictures now…

grand canyon, sunrise, fujifilm, x100T

grand canyon sunrise fujifilm x100t

Rocks on fire!

grand canyon, sunrise, fujifilm, x100t

path to the edge at dawn

grand canyon, sunrise, fujifilm, x100t

Always gotta have a fire circle 🙂

Cheers,

Molly